Asian
Wisconzine
by Heidi M. Pascual
Reflections: A Personal Spiritual Journey
part of his car key suddenly disappeared from its holder. We combed the area surrounding his car, the inside of the car, the porch where his bags
were placed, the garden and its grass and plants around the parking place, even inside the house, but we didn’t find what we were looking for. After
more than five long hours of futile searching, and with my son obviously tired and angry because his sons would miss their classes, I remembered
what my late mother taught me: “Anything lost can be found by praying sincerely to San Antonio de Padua.” So I prayed hard, and in so doing, I made
a promise. I will be a devotee of Saint Anthony and start going to “his” church, which is in Pila, Laguna.

The miracle then happened. My teary eyes saw a shining metal under the porch seat which I had previously swept clean!

This incident was only one of the many other miracles in my life that soon followed after I have regularly attended the special Tuesday masses
dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua in Pila.

Last July, my grandson Marcus was confined in the ICU of St. Luke’s Medical Center for more than a week because of a deadly Dengue strain. His
blood platelet went down to 8, was hallucinating, and his doctors were almost speechless, knowing fully well that Marcus’ survival wasn’t certain,
despite 13 bags of red blood, plasma and platelets injected into his system. Prayers were our only weapon against the deadly illness that has
struck and claimed the lives of many Filipino kids during the period. I was there the whole time my grandson was fighting for his life. It took me days
and nights of heart-rending pleas to the Lord, Mama Mary, and St. Anthony…and then the miracle happened. Marcus’ doctors were in awe; he
recovered, as if Marcus went to sleep for almost two weeks and woke up hungry for real food! Today, Marcus is back to his “old” self competing with
other scholars at the Philippine Science High School!

Then last September, one of my daughters-in-law, Diana Diaz, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer after doctors examined her neck lumps via biopsy
and blood tests. Surgery was scheduled, and our family immediately raised funds to cover her medical expenses. While all these things were going
on, I did a nine-Tuesday novena to St. Anthony, for Diana’s successful operation and healing, pleading for her life because her two children are too
young to lose a mother. The fear of losing someone so significant and important in the family was so real I had sleepless nights because of doubts
that  my prayers were not worthy enough to be heard. But my strong faith and persistence worked wonders. After Diana’s surgery in November, her
doctors biopsied the lumps taken from her neck. The result was amazing: Zero Cancer! This miracle is truly a gift to our family this Christmas.
As a Lagunense, I am very proud and honored to be part of the larger faith community that hosts the recently designated National Shrine
(Pambansang Dambana) of San Antonio de Padua in the town of Pila, province of Laguna. This town and its Roman Catholic Church have so much
history that just a first look at them would bring one back to the Filipino Spanish ancestry.

Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator who worked for the Spanish crown when he “discovered” my country in March 16, 1521 and named it
“Philippines” after King Philip of Spain, brought with him friars who quickly converted the natives to Christianity. And the rest was history. The
Philippines became the only Christian nation in Southeast Asia.

According to historical records, the first missionaries in Pila were Augustinians, but later replaced by Franciscans who established “Villa de Pila”
and built a church made of cane and dedicated it to St. Anthony of Padua as early as 1578. The Franciscans also established the second printing
press in the country which published Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala, a dictionary that facilitated the evangelization of the Tagalog region. Thus, the
role played by the Franciscan fathers of that period was strategic and significant in converting our ancestors in Laguna and neighboring provinces
into Christians.

To this day, the town of Pila still boasts of a number of homes built during the Spanish time, repaired and restored to their original architectural
beauty.
Clockwise from top left: Old bells of the original church; Altar of the National Shrine of St.
Anthony of Padua; Front shot, National Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua in Pila, Laguna,
Philippines.
I live in Santa Cruz, the capital town next to Pila, and we also have our own church dedicated to Mother Mary
and her Immaculate Conception. In my youth, I was this church’s organist and choir soloist. After retiring and
going back to my province, I started going to my town’s church. It hasn’t changed that much since high school
in terms of structure although a bit wider, but of course, the people in it, have. And perhaps, including myself.
Then one incident happened.

It was very early Monday, around 3 a.m., and my youngest son Dennis, who, together with his two sons, spent
the weekend in my home, was about to start his car to go back to Quezon City in Metro Manila, because it was
his kids’ school day, when the metal part of his car key suddenly disappeared from its holder. We combed the
area surrounding his car, the inside of the car, the porch where his bags were placed, the garden and its grass
and plants around the parking place, even inside the house, but we didn’t find what we were looking for. After
more than five long hours of futile searching, and with my son obviously tired and angry because his sons
would miss their classes, I remembered what my late mother taught me: “Anything lost can be found by
praying sincerely to San Antonio de Padua.” So I prayed hard, and in so doing, I made a promise. I will be a
devotee of Saint Anthony and start going to “his” church, which is in Pila, Laguna.
I live in Santa Cruz, the capital town next to Pila, and
we also have our own church dedicated to Mother Mary
and her Immaculate Conception. In my youth, I was
this church’s organist and choir soloist. After retiring
and going back to my province, I started going to my
town’s church. It hasn’t changed that much since high
school in terms of structure although a bit wider, but of
course, the people in it, have. And perhaps, including
myself.

Then one incident happened.

It was very early Monday, around 3 a.m., and my
youngest son Dennis, who, together with his two
sons, spent the weekend in my home, was about to
start his car to go back to Quezon City in Metro Manila,
because it was his kids’ school day, when the metal
There are many other miracles — big and small — that have been
happening not only to me and my family but also to my friends and
relatives. From the gifts of good health, good friends, successes in
all undertakings, personal safety, and happy occasions to ability to
hurdle various challenges in life, I realize I have been so blessed.

At this point in my life, I am focusing not on earthly matters anymore,
but on strengthening my faith. My spiritual journey has begun. I have
been apologizing to the Lord for being inactive in this area for so
long, but I know He understands. Now that my kids are all grown up
and I am alone, it’s high time to focus on a spiritual journey that will
highlight my love for my Creator and His intentions for creating this
soul. In so doing, I also aim to be a strong advocate and devotee of
the Virgin Mary and St. Anthony of Padua, my powerful intercessors
up there in heaven.